Ancient Mars ‘very likely’ had life and alien bugs could still exist underground

It’s “very likely” that some form of alien life existed beneath the surface of Mars in the distant past, scientists say, and it’s possible that Martian microbes could still be living underground today.

However, according to Boris Sauterey, a biologist at the Institut de Biologie de l'École Normale Supérieure in France, the type of creatures that evolved on mars may have carried the seeds of their own destruction.

The methane-producing microbes, or Methanogens, that thrived in the early history of the Red Planet could have triggered a planet-wide deep freeze, ruling out the evolution of higher forms of life.

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The French team discovered “subsurface habitability was very likely” on early Mars, possibly on a par with the Earth’s early oceans.

Boris told Motherboard his teamed had modelled the effect of a planet-wide population of these microscopic creatures might have had on ancient Mars.

“We evaluated the habitability of Mars,” he said, “and we evaluated the influence that this biosphere, that could have been similar to the primitive terrestrial biosphere, would have had on the Martian climate—and we were surprised.”

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He says while life on Earth has had the effect of stabilising the planet’s climate, there’s evidence an early Martian ecosystem of methane-producing bacteria would have done just the opposite – plunging Mars into an eternal ice age.

He added life’s effect on Earth’s climate could be unique in the galaxy and that most planets might have ironically been rendered uninhabitable by life itself.

“As soon as you put methanogens on Mars, the climate cools down by 20 to 40 degrees,” Boris said. "The planet gets covered in ice, and potentially becomes completely uninhabitable."

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“This could be the general rule in the universe and Earth might be an exception,” Boris says.

However, he adds, the presence of methane in the Martian atmosphere might be a clue to some of these micro-organisms still surviving today: “Assuming that actually some of them survived, if there are still habitable pockets for those types of organisms on Mars, it's possible to see if we can characterise chemical signals.

“Maybe we can use life to explain stuff that we have no other explanation for so far.”


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